Quality has been viciously sucked out of the romantic comedy genre. Each year a slew of films rehash the same premise note for note. Even more mind numbing is the fact that nearly every rom-com fails to advance romantic leads past stupid stereotypes and half-assed slapstick humor. Despite the many carbon copies and Katherine Heigl films flooding the cinemas, sometimes the studio system (or even an independent film) can put out a rom-com that redeems the trash that preceded it. This summer’s romantic messiah is Crazy, Stupid, Love. Admittedly, much of the film’s appeal stems from the actors’ ability to drum out a collection of poignant revelations and laughs than it does originality.
The film’s plot grows from the dissolving marriage of Cal (Steve Carell) and Emily (Julianne Moore), two over the hill lovers whose love is built around fizzle, not sizzle. After a Tourette’s like divorce decree from Emily and her admittance of adultery, Cal sulks away into the night, searching for happiness via the transformative power of cranberry vodka. Night after night, Cal visits a bar where he speaks of his wife’s transgressions and the lack of momentum his life possesses. Noticing Cal’s depressing demeanor and lack of extrinsic control, local playboy Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling) decides to take Cal under his wing and teach him how to become a desirable bachelor. As we watch Cal’s ascension into the stratosphere of sexual bait, his thirteen year old son, Robbie (Jonah Bobo), is having love issues of his own. With his rose-tinted glasses in hand, Robbie feverishly chases after the heart of his seventeen year old baby-sitter, Jessica (Analeigh Tipton). He does this despite his parent’s divorce; a brief romantic collapse that he feels will work itself out because they’re meant for each other. Unfortunately, Robbie will never be able to dissuade Jessica. This is due in part to the noticeable age difference, but also because Jessica has an unwavering crush on Cal, which only gains strength as Emily vanishes out of the picture.
With these weaving strands of love on display, we’re given one more thread in the form of Hannah (Emma Stone), a Law student looking for a lover that doesn’t resemble her fleeting boyfriend (an amusingly smug Josh Groban). Hannah is unsurprisingly wooed by Jacob. It’s her steadfast morals and inclination to avoid one night stands that takes his eyes off of his usual sexual targets. Hannah and Jacob become natural banter partners. All of these love stories work themselves to one conclusion: soul mates exist in this world, and they’re worth fighting for. We’ve seen this perspective on love numerous times before, hell it’s practically a staple of any love story, but with the great cast and funny script, Crazy, Stupid, Love feels surprisingly fresh. Steve Carell is once again terrific in a role that asks him to walk a thin line between funny and dramatic. Although it’s not as dark as his role in Little Miss Sunshine, Carell delicately and triumphantly careens between emotional distress and subtle humor. Matching Carell is Ryan Gosling. Gosling and his over marketed abs get overtaken by his impeccable comedic timing. Gosling is undoubtedly one of the finest actors in Hollywood, but his ability to match the zaniness of Carell and the spellbinding charm of Stone caught me off guard. The rest of the cast is nearly equally entertaining, especially Marisa Tomei in a manic role, as they converge into a hilariously twisted ending.
As is the case with most films that try to balance multiple characters arcs, Crazy, Stupid, Love leaves a few characters on the fringe. This grievance is most notable between the characters of Jacob and Hanna. Their developing love is a bit undercooked as both characters are absent for long stretches. Their eventual windfall into love leaves us with something to be desired, but their chemistry makes up for the lost time and delivers a respectable payoff. In many ways, the on-screen relationship between Gosling and Stone is representative of the film as a whole. There a lot of moving parts in play and sometimes the spotlight just isn’t big enough for everyone to get their just desserts. Perhaps if the film was under the tutelage of a more seasoned director, the ebbs and flows would’ve been more even keel. With that being said, the film’s shifts don’t suffocate the performers. If anything, it forces them to efficiently fill their scenes with an ample amount of humor and honesty. You know, the things you just don’t see in the graveyard known as romantic comedies.